Canadian History/The People of the Lands/Tlinkit

The Tlingit (also sometimes known as the Tlinkit although this name is considered inaccurate) were a seafaring group of first nations who lived on the many islands and the coast of Alaska.They are closely related to the Haida.



The Tlingit are the most Northern group of the Northwest coast peoples who range from Alaska all the way down to Oregon. They live in the Alaska Panhandle, surrounded by the tidewater and many coastal mountains. The heavy rainfall creates tropical rainforests and a temperate climate. The many islands off the coast of Alaska form a protected waterway, called the Inland Passage, that is ideal and regularly used for transportation and communication.



Tingl, an Alaskan language traditionally spoken by people of the Tlingit ancestary, although there are many dialects of it. Today, there are approximately 700 Tinglit speakers left, most of whom are elders. Some people are still struggling to keep their native alive and learn it while they are young however.



The Tlingit ate a lot of fish, mainly salmon, halibut, and oolakan. Also in their diet was seal and deer as well as an abundance of berries, roots, and seaweed. If food became an issue during the winter, they relied on clam beds. During the summer, tribes would stock up of food and dry or pickle it so it would last them throughout the winter.



People lived in large plank houses built from cedar wood.

Totem Poles


Carved from cedar wood and up to 20ft tall, totem poles had many purposes. They could be used as decoration, door posts, welcoming posts, or memorials to the dead. These poles were used to tell stories about the village or a particular family. They were commonly decorated with carvings of crests or animals such as the beaver, bear, wolf, whale, raven, eagle, and frog.



This is a huge ceremony and feast celebrated by all first nation groups of the Northwest Coast. The host would invite many people from different villages to come sing, fest, dance, and tell stories for several days. The host would give gifts and try to impress his guests. This potlatches were usually held to celebrate a wedding or birth of a son.



The Tlingits are divided into two different tribes, the Ravens and the Eagles/Wolves. Both of these tribes have many smaller clans within it. People must marry outside of their clans; Raven members can only marry Eagle members and vice versa. When born, a person belongs to their mothers clan.

Modern Culture


Today the Tlingit share a common government with the Haida and the two groups are very similar. Most people either work in fishing or logging industries or have moved to larger cities.